Content Writing Tips for Beginners
1. Don’t Be OverzealousI can relate to this way too well. When I left my 9-5 I had a big fat ZERO dollars coming in. Yes, I quit a six-figure job without having a second income stream. Needless to say, in the beginning, I needed money. Having this type of desperation led to some poor pitches and initial outreach to try and land clients. I’m sure clients could smell the desperation and need for a gig. Being overzealous or complicated for clients is a huge red flag that you’re not flexible or easy-going as a freelance writer. And if you’re just getting to know the client, you need to make it seem like you’re a pro. One way beginner writers screw this up is sending 10 emails with loads of questions. #rookiemove If you have lots of questions, send one bigger email. Don’t pepper them with 21 questions in several emails. Make it simple and easy for them to respond.
2. Edit, Spellcheck & Format ProperlyI still can’t believe I get paid to write words. Just a few years ago, I was arguably one of the worst grammatical writers out there. Run on sentences, lack of commas, and basically every error you could imagine. Luckily there are editing tools like Hemingway or Grammarly to help, but sadly they don’t catch everything. I can’t stress enough how important it is to read your work out loud and review it several times before sending to clients. Especially if it’s a pitch, you only get one first impression! If possible, have another writer, friend or family member read your pitch or initial email for errors. And if you’re using a template, I really warn you to use caution. While copy and paste templates will speed everything up, it’s a great way to make an error that you can’t come back from. This actually happened to Steph Curry when Nike tried to pitch him for an endorsement deal. They copied and pasted an old presentation and didn’t even have his name on it! Yikes…only a $200 million dollar mistake! So if you’re going to use copy and paste templates, make sure to spend time reviewing them properly before sending your pitch email.
3. Always Follow UpLet me ask you this … What is your pitching process? Do you have a plan for what happens after you send your pitch? Not having a pitch follow up strategy is a huge mistake. When I first started I would send pitches or reply to a job board with ZERO follow-up. What a giant mistake. Pitching is like sales. And closing any deal requires follow-up. Most people list ads for writers and get 100+ applications. To stand out, you need to follow up! Your next email may just catch the business owner when they’re finally reviewing everything. After you send a pitch, make sure to wait 3-5 days and send a quick response. Have it relate to your pitch and let them know you are still available for hire.
4. Make Sure Your Pitch Game is StrongSpeaking of pitches, one of the biggest reasons you aren’t landing jobs is because your pitch game isn’t great (yet). I see newbie writers use phrases like, “I’m just getting started” or “I’ve only been a freelance writer for a few months.” Even if you have a stellar portfolio, this doesn’t exactly ooze confidence to potential clients. You need to confidently convey your expert knowledge in your niche, regardless of if you’re brand new or not.
5. Don’t Get Complacent Once You Get Clients and MoneyAnother common freelance mistake that I fell victim too started as I began making $4,000 – $5,000 per month. I was happy “enough” with my clients, making decent money and still had plenty of time to work on my blog and podcast. But, this habit of complacency can be very dangerous! You need to constantly focus on getting higher paying clients and raising your standards. If it’s not freelance writing and blogging goals instead, that works too. The point is that you can’t depend on complacency. Otherwise, you could end up losing clients or having seasonality for some and have a huge cut to your revenue streams. And there’s nothing worse than having to take clients at a lower rate or doing work you really don’t want just for money.
6. Create an Epic Blog or Freelance Writing WebsiteLook if you want to blog full-time, I get it. In the beginning, I tried to have blogging as my main source of income but it wasn’t producing nearly as much as freelance writing to get started. But if you’re doing both, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by doing both. If your blog is good enough you can use it as your portfolio. But if you don’t want to start a blog you must have a freelance writers portfolio. It’s an instant way to showcase your best work and make sure that you’re not sending PDF’s or Google Docs. Again, this is a huge rookie move. But having a blog can help you grow your portfolio and is another great way to make money online.
7. Use Project Management System to Stay OrganizedDo you have a way to organize all of your client work in one central place? No… sticky notes on your desk don’t count. When it comes to the best content writing tips for beginners, I can’t stress this one enough. I’m talking about a formal project management system like Trello or Asana. Once I started writing for big blogs, I quickly realized they all have project management software to keep everything organized. And so should you! It’s a great way to keep everything in one place and make sure you never miss a client deadline.
How to Stay OrganizedI actually use a combination of Google Drive and Trello. Once all of my posts are written, I edit several ways. I’ll do the spell check on Google, use Grammarly in WordPress, and maybe even Hemmingway app as well. And for some clients, I’ll also use readable.io to ensure it’s the proper reading level. I also use Trello for my own content schedule for other projects like online courses and my podcast. Using Trello helps me create my content schedule and helps me stay on top of my content. Plus, they’re 100% free so you have no excuse to use them. Please don’t let your lack of organization become the reason you lose clients.
8. Make Sure Your Content Has A Good Flow and StructureOkay, a lot of these tips will come from my knowledge of writing online and, specifically, writing blog posts for clients (and money). Something I see a lot of new writers fail to do is structure their blog posts (I’ve been super guilty in the past as well). Remember, most people are reading on their smartphones so big blocks of texts will make them click away quickly! This increases bounce rates and make you less valuable as a writer. 2-3 lines of text on a desktop is 4-5 on the mobile so make sure your writing structure is short and sweet. To structure a blog post better and make it more readable, I recommend using:
- High-quality images
- Subheadings (H2, H3, and H4’s)
- Numbered lists or bullet lists
Have StructureEach article needs a formal writing structure. And if you’re writing for the same client on a recurring basis, clients begin to expect the same structure (as do readers). You want to make it clear and easy to follow. This will give yourself the best chances for them to read the entire article and make it to a clear call to action. If you upload on WordPress for clients, make sure to preview as a reader. Ensure it has plenty of room to breathe and always think about how readers view it on mobile as well.
9. Use Links the Right WayWhen it comes to writing for your clients, you want to have links within articles. This is known as internal linking and helps build link juice between articles. If you have stats from outside, use authoritative sites as external links. Anytime you’re using stats and facts, always make sure you are linking out to cite your sources.
Choose the Right Anchor TextOften times, beginner writers don’t link to the right text or anchor the link with too many words. You want to make sure you’re only linking to the words that make sense. For example…I have a post about freelance writing jobs on my site. Here’s how you’d correctly link: Bad Example: Check out these freelance writing jobs online to get started today. Good Example: Check out these freelance writing jobs online to get started today. You want to always link to the words that are most relevant to the post that you’re sending users too.
10. Don’t Be Overly Formal With Your Writing StyleIf you’re new to freelance writing, please don’t have an overly formal tone to your writing. It’s not college, it’s okay to have a conversational tone. Anytime I get a new client, I always go through their site and read a ton of content to get a feel for the style and flow of it all. Remember, clients, are using your content to attract leads and grow their business. They want content that is easy to read and understand. You might know it but most clients want to you actually “dumb it down” for most paid writing gigs. Seriously, like 4th-8th-grade level! I know it sounds crazy but it’s true. Make sure that you use simple words and phrases that make it easy to read.
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11. Always Provide Examples in Your WritingA great way to add value to your samples (and your client’s posts) is to provide examples of what you are talking about. For example, if you are talking about a tip – like using hyperlinks – provide an example of why this is beneficial. By providing examples of what you are talking about, it makes it easier for the reader to understand and correlate. Plus it makes your content more engaging and boosts the value of your blog post.
12. Separate Your Work vs. Client WorkWhoops, guilty of another one here. I get so excited about the endless opportunities on the internet I’ve definitely prioritized my blog before client work in the past. Now, I try to clearly separate the days I do my blog and podcast vs. client work. It’s easy to feel the excitement of online courses, webinars, Youtube or whatever else you’re discovering. But make sure it doesn’t affect your income from writing. And if you’re a writer and a blogger, burnout at times is expected. That’s why it’s so important to stay organized and stay committed to an empowering morning routine.
13. Always Learn New SkillsAs Warren Buffett said, “The best investment you can make is an investment in yourself.” Trust me, it’s easy to feel like there’s not enough time in the day to learn another skill. But if you want to stay relevant and grow your income, you MUST keep learning new skills. Whether it’s learning how to grow Pinterest, build a following on Instagram, filming Youtube videos or writing on Medium. If it’ll help your brand or business, you need to make the time to constantly be learning new skills. Make sure you’re using writing tools like Trello, G-Cal and even old-school calendars will help you stay organized. Remember, the more you learn, the more you earn!
14. Make Sure You Niche DownSometimes going bigger and broader isn’t better. It’s important to find your own freelance writing niche. Remember, the “riches are in the niches.” If your niche is too broad – for example, money instead of personal finance for millennials – you will have a harder time landing high-paying clients. Why? Because clients want experts writing their posts. Content clients seek writers that are experienced in one industry or niche. The more experience you can give to your client, the more you can charge for your writing.
15. Always Have a Plan For Your Writing BusinessDo you have a 1, 3, or 5-year plan for your freelance writing business? I know I didn’t when I first started. All I wanted some clients. I recommend setting a financial goal and a time frame. Is this forever? Do you want to make your own content or products? Do you see yourself only offering writing services or maybe other services such as website design, Pinterest marketing or coaching? Before you jump into freelance content writing, think about your goals to grow your business.
16. Always End with a Summary and Call to Action (CTA)Don’t you hate it when a great blog post suddenly ends…? No conclusion, no summary no bullet points … its just over!? It’s definitely frustrating for a reader and one of the best content writing tips for beginners. You are getting paid to write for a conclusion, so give them one to complete your post. So what’s the best way to end a post? I prefer to have a new subheading with a conclusion phrase like:
- Final Thoughts
- Wrapping it Up
- Next Steps
17. Engage and Grow Your Social MediaI have a love-hate relationship with social media. And since I’ve become a full-time soloprenuer I really feel that relationship at times. Because I know I need to stick with but I hate being glued to my phone. So in the writing world, I recommend sticking with Twitter and LinkedIn as your two main platforms of choice. Although, Instagram might be another way to get clients as I’ve landed nearly all of my podcast guests from the site growing platform. These platforms have helped me earn thousands of dollars and many gigs. So don’t worry about having to be on Snapchat, Periscope, Youtube or Vine. Start with Twitter, LinkedIn or Instagram. I think it’ll also depend on which platform you like using the most if you already have a following, and the type of niche you’re writing in.
FAQs About Content Writing
How do I start content writing?As Zig Ziglar said, “You don’t have to be great to start but you have to start to be great.” Seriously, just start. Find a niche, build your portfolio, pitch your services, and repeat until you get your first client. Everyone that has a website needs content out there. Get your hustle on and just start. You can become a freelance writer if you just stop overthinking. Overthinking leads to inaction!
How do you write a beginners guide?Guides create epic content that gets found in Google (like this article). Make sure you spend time crafting a lengthy outline for your writing before writing your beginners guide. Do some searches, find what other articles rank well or are popular and find a way to make yours better. Then read the others, structure your outline, and get started. Try to make your content stand out by adding more content, better graphics or video if appropriate. Content is still king!
How do you write effective content?Here’s my 10-step strategy to writing effective and epic content:
- Have a headline that people HAVE to read.
- Create a hook in the beginning (tell a story, quote someone famous or have a compelling study).
- Do your research on the topic before you get started writing.
- Create an outline first and send to the client before writing the full article.
- Write your content in one sitting with minimal distractions. Stay focused on the goal!
- Edit, edit, edit. I can’t stress how important it is to edit your work before sending to the client.
- Proofread several times and read out loud.
- Do a final run through, use Grammarly, and read aloud to double check your content.
- Turn in early. This will make you stand out to editors and clients as a dependable writer.
- Submit to your client.
What is the salary of a content writer?Your freelance content writing rates can vary based on the job and your previous experience as a writer. You can make .10 cents per word or $1 per word. The rate should be negotiated before you start writing.
What skills should a content writer have?According to Constant Content, these are the seven skills all content writers should have:
- Researching Capabilities
- Good understanding of SEO
- The ability to get focused
- Excellent time management
- Great editing skills
- Stay in demand
Ready to Write?These are the most common content writing tips for beginners to make you stand out against other writers. If you’re reading this and just getting started as a freelance writer, you’re well on your way to crushing it. I literally made every single mistake on this list (and might still be guilty of a few) yet continue to make $5,000+ writing part-time. I’ll help you speed up success and avoid all the mistakes I made. You will learn everything you need in the 40+ lessons to make money writing. Check out Freelance to 5K: The Step by Step Formula to Make $5K as a Content Writer!
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